Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the World, and many business forecasts and operating budgets were severely impacted. Before the end of the first quarter, incentive plan performance goals were suddenly deemed unattainable. While most companies are not currently considering adjusting in-cycle incentive plan performance goals, due either to concerns about external optics or a lack of sufficient context, assessing performance for the purposes of incentive plan payouts will be a deeply deliberated topic during year-end pay discussions. We expect that for many companies, incentive plan performance assessment is likely to include the application of backward-looking discretion, informed by a comprehensive review of a variety of quantitative and qualitative factors. This article provides an analytical approach to support the application of discretion.
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The significant stock price declines of many companies over the past few months have raised the question of whether a company’s traditional approach to impending equity awards should be revised. The first widescale evidence of companies’ responses to this dynamic is unfolding in the context of 2020 director equity awards. This Client Alert analyzes the equity grant practices of 109 S&P 500 companies holding their annual meetings between April 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020 to identify trends in director equity grant policies resulting from the market impact of COVID-19.
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Do you think the effect of COVID-19 has destroyed your company’s 2020 bonus plan? Many companies are taking a “wait and see” approach to how they will ultimately evaluate the impact of the pandemic on incentive plan performance goals. When the time is right, that assessment is likely to include the application of backward-looking discretion, informed by a comprehensive review of a variety of quantitative and qualitative factors. However, many companies will likely be uncomfortable with both the ambiguity of an undefined and arbitrary “discretionary” review process, and the well-established negative connotations associated with the exercise of discretion in setting pay. As a result, many companies will be looking for well-reasoned, easily articulated approaches to applying discretion. This Client Alert offers one example of the analytical approach that companies may consider in evaluating 2020 performance while maintaining pre-COVID-19 performance frameworks.
The economic fallout resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has rendered obsolete many executive incentive plans, and compensation committees are expected to apply significantly more discretion for 2020 than is typical. This Client Briefing provides a framework for the use of discretion in incentive plans. A logical framework may help companies avoid arbitrary and confusing outcomes.
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Last Updated: June 3, 2020
Note: Contact your Exequity Advisor for detailed information underlying these summary statistics and for special data cuts.
While it is safe to say every economic crisis is different, it does not seem fair to compare this crisis to any other. The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in modern times. In turn, companies are responding with unprecedented actions. This Client Alert describes how the repercussions of COVID-19 are impacting pay programs, based on data gathered from public filings as of April 1, 2020. We will continue to update this data throughout the pandemic as companies respond, at https://www.exqty.com/newsroom/covid-19-impact-on-pay-summary-statistics.
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